|Danks an Odd Signing for Rebuilding Sox||| Print ||
Written by Jim Mancari (Contact & Archive) on January 13, 2012
A combination of strong pitching and good hitting made the Chicago White Sox appear to be heavy favorite for the American League Central. To everyone's surprise, the White Sox finished in third place, and seeds of rebuilding are being planted.
General manager Kenny Williams has had a busy offseason. First, long-time manager Ozzie Guillen has left for the Miami Marlins. Williams let ace Mark Buehrle leave without a fight, and he has shown interest in bringing back speedy left fielder Juan Pierre, who stole 27 bases and started last season. Carlos Quentin, Sergio Santos and Jason Frasor are also gone for prospects.
In the middle of those moves, however, Williams re-signed lefty starting pitcher John Danks to a five-year, $65 million extension.
Now, Danks has been a solid major league pitcher the past five seasons. He's started at least 26 games each season throughout his career and, for the most part, has kept the White Sox in games. However, Danks will be paid $14.25 million per season for four years starting in 2013, not to mention $8 million this season. His career mark is 54-56 with a 4.03 ERA.
If the White Sox are rebuilding, why devote a huge chunk of money to a .500 starting pitcher? The answer is that the team can't fully "rebuild" until it sheds some of its other veteran talent.
Right now, the White Sox roster is still chock full of veteran players that at one time or another were productive Major Leaguers. Paul Konerko has only gotten better with age and will continue to be the centerpiece of the team's offense. He's due $12 million in 2012.
Slugger Adam Dunn signed a three-year, $44 million deal prior to the 2011 season. He hit a paltry .159 with 11 home runs. Chicago will likely be stuck with Dunn the next two seasons, because there likely isn't a team in their right mind willing to take on that sort of salary for that lack of production.
As bad as Dunn's contract is, Jake Peavy's deal has also handcuffed the White Sox. The team has spent $31 million on him the last two seasons, which have resulted in just 14 wins from the supposed ace. Granted, Peavy has dealt with injuries, but he still has collected his paychecks.
Alex Rios, Alexei Ramirez, A.J. Pierzynski, Jesse Crain, Gavin Floyd and Matt Thornton are all under lucrative contracts for 2012 as well.
In a perfect world, the White Sox could just trade these players to teams willing to assume the rest of the contracts. However, the problem is that most of these players are coming off seasons in which they underperformed, which has turned other teams away.
Rather than just eat the bulk of the contracts, Chicago hopes that it can get enough production out of these veterans to make them viable trade targets come the July deadline -- and that certainly includes Danks as well. That's why it's difficult to say that the White Sox are completely rebuilding. But a fire sale in the summer will cement the rebuilding process.
The team's payroll has already been slashed by $22 million from last season's franchise-high $127.8 million. Players with very little professional experience will be expected to step right in.
Dayan Viciedo, who's only played 67 games, will take over in right field for Quentin. Brent Morel should get the bulk of the playing time at third base. Cheap options Brent Lillibridge and Gordon Beckham will also see significant playing time.
Lefty phenom Chris Sale is expected to make the jump from the bullpen to the starting rotation. He's been toyed with so far early in his career, so hopefully he doesn't turn into the next Joba Chamberlain.
The White Sox won the World Series in 2005 but only made the playoffs in one of the next six seasons. Expect this to be a long year for the South-Siders and their first-year manager and fan-favorite Robin Ventura.